Scott Islands Protected Marine Area Regulations: strategic environmental assessment

Overview of the expected environmental impacts of Scott Islands marine National Wildlife Area (NWA) which was created to protect wildlife species, primarily seabirds.

This initiative involves the designation of the boundaries of the Scott Islands Protected Marine Area (commonly referred to as the Scott Islands marine NWA) through an Order in Council. Also, the Scott Islands Protected Marine Area Regulations apply within the marine NWA. Both of these legal instruments were made under the authority of the Canada Wildlife Act.  

A recent assessment of population trends of seabirds around the world indicates a population decline of 70% since 1950. Several overall threats to seabirds have been identified, which include:

  • invasive predators at nesting sites
  • overfishing for forage fish stocks
  • accidental bycatch by commercial fishing vessels
  • pollution
  • climate change
  • disturbance to nesting seabirds, which is also commonly cited as a threat to reproductive success

Preserving the habitat of seabirds, many of which are migratory, is key to their conservation. While the primary focus of the proposed marine NWA is the protection of seabirds, many of the prohibitions, as well as the permitting scheme, apply to all wildlife species in the area. The permitting scheme requires that the adverse effects of the proposed activity on all wildlife and their habitat be assessed. Application of adaptive management practices in the area will help to ensure that any threats are minimized or mitigated for seabirds and the many marine species in the Scott Islands marine NWA.

The Scott Islands and surrounding waters make up a productive and biologically diverse marine ecosystem, particularly for seabirds. However, changes to the habitat and declining populations of some species demonstrate vulnerability for sea birds and other marine life in the area. Several species that nest in the area are identified as being at risk of extinction. To learn more, about this important biological area, including species at risk and existing protections, please refer to the Canada Gazette.

The key outcome of this initiative is that human activities in this biologically unique and productive area will be managed for conservation. The Scott Islands Protected Marine Area Regulations (the Regulations) will provide an effective framework for the management of human activities that may interfere with the conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat in the area. The establishment of the Scott Islands marine NWA will result in the development of a management plan which will identify habitat and species management priorities, guide management actions, as well as identify monitoring and research priorities. This initiative will also result in the collaboration with other federal departments who have management authority in this area, the Province of British Columbia, and the Quatsino and Tlatlasikwala First Nations.

The implementation of the Regulations will result in the following positive environmental outcomes:

  • conservation measures to the marine NWA which will help maintain long-term biodiversity on Canada’s Pacific Coast by putting protections in place for seabirds and marine wildlife, including many species at risk
  • continuation of a dynamic and diverse ocean economy in the area, while ensuring that the marine environment on which that economy is based is protected
  • a permitting and reporting scheme that will enable additional coordinated, long-term, stable and focused research and reporting in the area, to improve management of human activity, and ensure the continued conservation of the high biological productivity and biodiversity in this area
  • establishment of a marine NWA enables other tools for ecological management, including collaboration with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, the Province of British Columbia and First Nations in adaptive management and ecological planning, as well as the Scott Islands management plan which will guide conservation and research priorities

The strategic environmental assessment concluded that the Scott Islands marine NWA and the corresponding proposed Regulations under the Canadian Wildlife Act would result in important positive environmental effects and would contribute to the following goals set out in the 2016 to 2019 Federal Sustainable Development Strategy goals:

  • healthy coasts and oceans
  • heathy wildlife populations
  • connecting Canadians with nature

Climate change represents a potentially major threat to seabird populations, marine species, and biodiversity in general in the area by changing the abundance, timing and distribution of the food supply. Changes in weather patterns and severe weather incidents could have adverse effects for migration and reproductive success. Protecting this large marine area, managing activities within it for conservation, and minimizing other known threats to the seabirds, such as predator introductions, will make the seabird colonies and populations more resilient to climate change. Continued research on the species, their interactions with marine habitat, and other biological linkages, could help to improve management and possible mitigation of harm of climate change.

Protecting the Scott Islands marine environment will help to ensure that the opportunity to encounter the species that rely on this environment is maintained. Managing activities in the marine NWA for conservation will ensure that economic initiatives that occur will not compromise the conservation or protection of wildlife or wildlife habitat.

Follow up and monitoring measures will be taken in several ways.

  • The Scott Islands marine NWA management plan will be reviewed 5 years after it is implemented, and then every 10 years thereafter. The management plan will identify habitat and species management priorities, guide management actions, and identify monitoring and research priorities for the Scott Islands marine NWA. Upon review, appropriate adjustments will be made to the management plan to help ensure that the conservation objective of Area is met.
  • The compliance promotion strategy and plan will be reviewed 2 years after the implementation of the proposed Regulations. This review will determine if additional or different compliance promotion activities needs to be done in the Area to ensure compliance with the prohibitions.

Reporting of these monitoring and reporting measures will be done by Environment and Climate Change Canada through existing reporting mechanisms.

 

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